November 1993 A4 40 pages
AMP RECORDS - Electronic Evening
original (last 110 copies)
Example article extract
One of the most enigmatic and fascinating characters in British rock is the extraordinary Arthur Brown, a unique and visionary performer, a major force in helping to shape the cutting edge of rock and new-music for well over two decades: from his immortal 60's hit Fire, via one of the most revolutionary of 70's progressives Kingdom Come, to the present day, with a UK tour that I'm sure surprised everyone.
Origins of "the god of hell-fire"
Originally from Whitby in Yorkshire, Arthur's family moved to Cardiff, where he spent his early teens getting into R&B and becoming involved with local jazz bands. Right from the start his passion was for singing. So, whilst studying philosophy at Reading University in the early-60's, Arthur also took classical singing lessons. He also played bass in an amateur school band and formed his own R&B outfit: Blues & Brown. The only recorded document that survives from this era is a 1963 Reading Rag Mag flexi-disc by the Black Diamonds, featuring Arthur on the track You don't know, singing in a very soulful manner. In fact, as with Chris Farlowe, Arthur Brown has been quoted as having such an authentic soul-style that some people thought he was black!
In the mid-60's Arthur began to gain a reputation for his eccentricity, and talent to sing almost any kind of music. It was inevitable that he would move to 'where the action is', namely London with its bustling thriving underground and club scene. He fronted a band called The Southwest Five, and later his own band The Arthur Brown Union, who changed into the less original named Arthur Brown Set. He also played a residency at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and worked with other bands before returning to London in autumn 1966. The name of Arthur's band obviously grew out of their reputation for eccentric stage performances, theatrical makeup, outrageous clothes, and a music that combines rock, soul, blues, poetry, theatre and satire, with great imagination. The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown officially came into being in early-67, and were promptly spotted by The Who's Pete Townsend, who managed to secure them a contract with Track Records. Obviously a friendship grew out of this as Arthur was later featured in the film version of The Who's ambitious rock-opera "Tommy".
The story goes that what turned out to be The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown was actually organist Vincent Crane's band! But, the dominant and powerful character that he is, Arthur was soon in control, developing a unique new form of pop music. The first attempt at a hit single, Devil's Grip, failed to catch the public attention, and come to think of it I don't ever recall hearing it (apparently it features Colosseum's Jon Hiseman on drums) and it's now a rare collectors item. Their second single however, was to propel Arthur Brown to international stardom, an edited version of a track from their debut LP, the single Fire was a top 5 hit. I can still recall vaguely, a bizarre character on "Top Of The Pops" proclaiming to be the 'god of hell-fire' amidst flames and strange visuals. The image was powerful and it caught the public attention.
Originally, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown featured one Drachen Theaker on drums, his origins were in jazz, and because he was always searching for new adventures in music, he left and returned to the Crazy World on several occasions. The line-up of their debut LP (in addition to Brown, Crane and Theaker) was completed by bassist Sean Nicholas (who apparently worked as a session musician under many guises, most notably as Nick Greenwood with the Steve Hillage band Khan).
Admittedly THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN was not that great an album, now seeming very dated and far too overproduced. The original LP was intended as something quite different, but producer Kit Lambert insisted on adding brass and orchestral arrangements, and cut out some of the albums more bizarre sections. There are still moments of genius however, most notably the segued sequence of tracks that covered most of side one, including the track Fire surrounded by more dramatic theatrical pieces. In attempting to create a chart topping pop album Kit insisted on several tracks being re-recorded numerous times. Apparently two of the tracks featured John Marshall on drums instead of Drachen, though he gains no credit on the cover.
It was obvious that being with a pop label was far too restricting. Plans for a second album with Track never materialised. Nightmare was culled from the LP as a new single, with an original new track What's happening? on the b-side. This is the only recorded Crazy World track to feature Carl Palmer on drums. Later he and Vincent Crane were to form Atomic Rooster, who developed the heavy edge of the Crazy World further. Of course Carl Palmer was later to reveal his instrumental talents to the full with Emerson Lake & Palmer.
At this time Arthur Brown was hot media property, gaining a lot of publicity on TV and also recording sessions with Crazy World for John Peel's "Top Gear" radio show. But, with the band falling apart around him and seemingly little chance of another album with Track Records, he, Drachen and other like-minded friends retreated to Puddletown in Dorset. Initially, this version of the band gained the nickname The Puddletown Express. Together with Brown and Theaker, the line-up included jazzer George Khan (a much travelled winds player also known for his work with the Battered Ornaments and much later with Brian Godding in Mirage), the curiously named Android Funnel (actually one Andy Rickell) on guitar, and various other musicians. So, after a tour of France, Crazy World #2 spent several; weeks during autumn 1969 recording what was eventually to be released by Reckless Records in 1988 as STRANGELANDS. We were lead to believe that this is the album that lead to the cancellation of the contract with Track Records. What the record company wanted was a follow-up to Fire, but Arthur was now trying to lose that image, and STRANGELANDS contained nothing that could be marketed as a single! The new Crazy World were a much more inventive and radical outfit, with a music that matched the strangeness of Arthur's lyrics, veering off to bizarre surreal satire and psychedelic space music. You can read a review of this extraordinary album back in Audion #9 (page 14).
initial idea was to attempt a solo career, yet that was not to be, and instead he got together a new band. In the meantime, the core of Crazy World had become involved in a loose alliance with High Tide members (who'd also retreated to Puddletown after being dropped by United Artists), recording sessions under the guise of Rustic Hinge. Drachen Theaker's idea was to develop the ideas he'd gained after meeting Captain Beefheart in France a few years earlier. He also wanted Arthur to be involved, but wisely he declined, not wanting to be billed as a Beefheart copyist. The demos and jam sessions they recorded eventually surfaced as the album REPLICAS (and subsequently used as filler material on the CD version of STRANGELANDS), not great quality recordings, but musically inspired and astounding. REPLICAS had the spirit of Captain Beefheart's MIRROR MAN, the energy of High Tide and the strangeness of Third Ear Band.
Since those heady days in Puddletown, Drachen has been quite active on the music scene, he's worked extensively with Indian musicians, also often with High Tide and his own revolutionary fusion outfit Hazchem.
It's ironic really, that the label who signed up Arthur's new band: Kingdom Come were none other than Polydor, the distributors of Track Records!
The original incarnation of Kingdom Come included such people as guitarist Dave Ambrose (ex-Brian Auger) and the ex-Arcadium members Mike "Goodge" Harris and Bob Ellwood. The line-up in these days was in a constant state of flux, often with up to ten members appearing on stage at some concerts, and had changed almost entirely by the time of recording their debut album GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER. Only organist Mike Harris remained, and Arthur had found a great foil for his theatrical antics in Andy Dalby (on guitar and vocals) who became the only other constant member throughout. The rest of the band consisted of Julian Brown (as one of the earliest synthesists, playing VCS3), Desmond Fisher (bass) and Martin "Slim" Steer (drums).
The early formative days of Kingdom Come are immortalised really vividly in the "Glastonbury Fayre" documentary film, with a nightmarish show of devastating music and theatre. The band almost exuded an insane frenzy that totally bewildered the audience. The stage was set for the phenomenal Kingdom Come debut album, the curiously titled GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER. A revolutionary and bizarre musical concept, it was also a blatant stab at society, politics, religion, etc. You name it, Arthur flips it on its head, dissects it, ridicules it. Lyrically powerful, yes, and also extremely inventive musically, so much so that it's hard to tell where the music will go from one moment to the next. GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER combines the daring of The Mothers Of Invention with the cutting-edge of British psychedelia.